Cementing her place as a force of nature, Carrie Underwood left a sellout crowd of 10,000 blown away Friday night at the i wireless Center in Moline. Appropriately it was the “Blown Away” tour, the title of her most recent album and recent No. 1 song.
While her singing, song tempo and arrangements were identical to the studio versions, for better or worse, it was of the best tech concerts I’ve seen in some time.
A powerful, tornado-themed video opened her nearly two-hour set on a stage-wide, 20-feet high screen. A pyramid-shaped screen emerged and the singer entered through a space lined up with a video “door.” Underwood entered wearing the first of her five costumes of the night, an off-the-shoulder white number with a floor-length back and a bare-leg front.
Her act was a sandwich of her hits in the beginning and end, with several songs from the “Blown Away” album, released in May. Those included “Two Black Cadillacs,” a story song about a deceased man’s wife and mistress encountering each other at his funeral. Many of those album cuts were done while Underwood and two of her seven-man band were floating over the audience in a fake front porch, with a glass bottom and tree-looking rails on the sides.
During the reggae-tinged “One Way Ticket,” she tossed leis to the audience, while giant beach balls were batted around by fans with floor seats, and a confetti cannon let loose pink and green bits over the entire arena.
An affective song from the new album called “Thank God for Hometowns” provided some nice sentimentality from the woman from a town of 3,500 in Oklahoma. “I can just tell you guys are happy and glad for where you came from,” she said after the tune.
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The video screens also were effective during the finale, as the ballad “I Know You Won’t” led into the single “Blown Away.” A stage-created wind storm blew debris on the back of the stage, and the walls of a video bedroom were ripped to shreds.
The screens provided a different atmosphere for each song, with several different angles on the screens to give the appearance of depth. The inventive staging continued with band members on two islands at the side of the stage, rather than relegated to the back.
While Underwood’s songs were pitch-perfect with what’s heard on the radio, I would have liked to see her take some chances on stage, either in an arrangement or style that’s new to her fans.
Opening act Hunter Hayes, who won the Country Music Association Award for best new artist earlier this month, is a singer who fills a niche in country music, a 21-year-old male with a definite appeal to teenage girls. He’s got some musical chops, however, with his No. 1 song “Wanted” and the new single “Somebody’s Heartbeat.” Throwing in a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” he had a satisfying set that will only become better as he gets a better stage presence.